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Attacks on civilians in Western and Central Equatoria States, Southern Sudan, between 15 Dec 2008 and 10 Mar 2009 by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA)

Situation Report
Originally published
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Twelfth periodic report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the situation of human rights in the Sudan

Executive Summary

The twelfth periodic report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the human rights situation in the Sudan focuses on attacks against civilians in Western and Central Equatoria States in Southern Sudan between 15 December 2008 and 10 March 2009 by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). The information contained in this report is based primarily on the work of Human Rights Officers working for the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) under Security Council Resolution 1590. This report has been shared with the Government of Southern Sudan (GoSS).

On 14 December 2008, the Ugandan National Army (UPDF), backed by the Government of Southern Sudan's Army (SPLA) and the Democratic Republic of the Congo's (DRC) National Army (FARDC), launched an attack on the LRA's base in the Garamba National Park in northeast DRC, codenamed Operation Lightning Thunder. After the operation, the LRA reportedly splintered into several small groups, at least two of which entered Western and Central Equatoria in Southern Sudan. These groups attacked civilians in Southern Sudan from mid December. Attacks were also carried out in the Central African Republic (CAR) and the DRC. At the time this report was finalised, attacks were ongoing.

Information was gathered on thirty incidents which took place in Western and Central Equatoria between 15 December 2008 and 10 March 2009, twenty-seven of which have been confirmed. The twenty seven attacks consist of nineteen attacks on villages, four vehicle ambushes and four attacks on individuals. Victim and witness statements confirm that the attacks were perpetrated by the LRA. Civilians were systematically targeted with and subjected to brutal violence without regard for age, sex or ethnicity. At least eighty one civilians were killed in the attacks and many were injured. As well as killing, causing serious injury and mutilating, the LRA also abducted many people, including children, whom it forced to work as child soldiers.

The Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA) Brigade in Western Equatoria State (WES) was reinforced shortly before the attacks covered in this report occurred. It faced considerable challenges when responding to the attacks, due to the guerilla tactics of the LRA, the vast and difficult terrain, its lack of mobility and other logistical challenges. On occasions it was slow to take action. Joint Integrated Units (JIUs), responsible to the Government of National Unity (GNU), also failed to respond effectively on at least one occasion. Recognising the inadequacy of state protection, local authorities have encouraged the reliance, by local communities, upon self defence groups. Several of these groups are in operation and have been involved in acts of violence against suspected LRA attackers.

The LRA attacks caused major loss of life and serious injury to many people. Many were also abducted and an unknown number of rapes took place. Villages were pillaged and burnt and livelihoods were lost as a result of the massive internal displacement provoked by the attacks. Concerns about a humanitarian crisis are exacerbated by the large influx of refugees to Southern Sudan as a result of attacks in neighbouring DRC and CAR. Confidence in the security forces of Southern Sudan has suffered. The attacks have left a legacy of trauma, both individual and collective, and those affected continue to live in fear of their lives.

The evidence presented in this report suggests that LRA actions may amount to crimes against humanity. These acts are also covered by Southern Sudanese criminal law. With the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2005, the Government of Southern Sudan (GoSS) assumed responsibility for security in Southern Sudan and is therefore bound to protect the right to life. On some occasions the GoSS failed in this obligation.

LRA attacks in Southern Sudan have been ongoing since the end of the reporting period. In addition to a detailed annex of attacks which occurred during the reporting period, Annex II contains information on attacks after 10 March 2009. Some of the subsequent attacks remain unconfirmed.